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June 6, 2013 9:50:30 AM
Members of the Columbus Municipal School Board met in an often-heated three-hour executive session Tuesday night during a special meeting to discuss personnel matters involving Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell.
Board members met at Brandon Central Office 5 p.m. Tuesday and immediately went into executive session. Board president Currie Fisher was 30 minutes late to the meeting, claiming she thought the meeting began at 6, the usual time for board meetings. Due to Fisher's initial absence board vice president Jason Spears led the meeting.
Liddell was asked to step out for the first part of the meeting and board members could be heard raising their voices several times over the next hour. Liddell was called back into the meeting where things once again became intense with board members raising their voices and firing questions at the superintendent. Liddell also raised her voice several times and could be heard saying, "I don't know anything about it" on numerous occasions.
At 7:05, Liddell once again left the meeting and board members met for another 45 minutes. Again, heated debate ensued before the board emerged from executive session, with Spears announcing that the board had not agreed on any action. The meeting then adjourned.
Spears did not elaborate on the nature of the meeting or what was discussed.
"Right now we're in fact finding," he said.
When asked if the issue involved Liddell's use of school funds to pay for a personal party, Spears also declined to elaborate
"We're just fact-finding on some of the information. That's all I can say at this time."
Liddell left the meeting before she could be asked to comment.
According to documents obtained by The Dispatch, Liddell used school funds and school employees to cater a private party at the Trotter Convention Center on December 23, 2012. The party cost the district $447.51. Liddell wrote the district a check in the amount of $150 for "catering" at the end of January. When questioned on May 29 about the use of district employees working her private party, Liddell said she would immediately write an additional reimbursement check for $188.23 to cover the expense of the employees. Based on records obtained by The Dispatch, she still owes the district $109.28.
According to her contract, the board may terminate Liddell and not be held responsible for paying out the rest of her contract if they find her responsible for "gross negligence" or guilty of "malfeasance in office." Liddell is currently under a 37-month contract that ends June 30, 2015.
The contract reads: "It is expressly acknowledged that the Board's removal of the Superintendent from office shall not relieve it of the obligations to the Superintendent here under such removal is based on finding a gross negligence, malfeasance in office, commission of a crime involving moral turpitude or other good cause as provided for under the provision of Section 37-9-59 of the Mississippi Code of 1972."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah
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